POTD Kelly Johnson, 2B

San-Man answered our Q's on Kelly Johnson, which got Eye-Gor to noodling around in the cave...

KJ's actually a pretty clear template from a sabermetric standpoint.  He got off track by (1) cutting down his swing (a lot) to make contact, and (2) expanding his strike zone (a lot) to not make contact.

Could a great batting coach fix him?  Well, you be da judge...

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=== What Time Is the Game Over, Dept. ===

KJ's contact rate on swings in the zone went wayyyyyy up in 2009 ... Johnson made contact on a preposterous (for him) 94% of all swings, when the ball was inside the strike zone.

94% - KJ

79% - Dunn

78% - Howard

77% - Cust

75% - Branyan

Raul Ibanez was at 82%, Adam Jones at 83%, Jason Bay at 80%, Mike Cameron at 82% ... contact rate in the strike zone essentially sorts ML hitters by who is hitting for power (or trying to). 

Go to fangraphs, batters, plate discipline, sort by Z-Contact%, and you'll see the names line up beautifully in terms of how hard they're swinging.  (You'll also get a laugh out of Albert Pujols' stats.)

Other guys in Kelly Johnson's sky-high Z-Contact% range ... Christian Guzman, Jimmy Rollins, David DeJesus, Rafael Furcal, Chone Figgins.  You don't make contact with everything by putting your backside into it, kiddies.  You make contact with everything by arm-swinging.

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=== Dumb Luck Dept. ===

Just the same, a pepper swing shouldn't produce the .240'ish BABIP that KJ ran.  That's getting into pitcher-at-the-plate BABIP.

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=== Not the Best Plate Strategy, Keed ===

What is really interesting is that while KJ cut down his swing to make more contact, he also wayyyyyy expanded his strike zone -- swinging at far more pitches outside the zone.  

Here is a fine article by Brian Joura on it.  KJ swung at 18% of O-Zone's in 200 ... but 24-25% the last two years.  Yowch.

So what happens if you cut down your swing to be sure you make contact, and then start swinging at pitchers' pitches?   Well, you're going to roll over a lot of grounders to the shortstop and second baseman.  

KJ doesn't have the speed to slap the ball around.  He's going to run a lousy BABIP when he's arm-swinging at pitchers' pitches.

.............

The fact that KJ felt the need to cut down his swing suggests that he felt beaten by ML pitchers in 2008-09 ... and the fact that he stopped recognizing strikes suggests that he got all messed up inside his head.

KJ looks like a pretty serious reclamation project to me:  he's got to get back to contracting his zone, waiting for his pitch, and hitting the ball hard ... but his own opinion is that he's not capable of doing that.

It would be a masterly job of coaching that recovered him.

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=== Opportunity Fire for the Right Sargeant ===

Kelly Johnson, when right, has been an Orlando Hudson comp offensively -- solid AVG, 60 walks, good gap power, "meh" defensively as Sandy put it.

Right now, he's (evidently) available cheap.  He's either a free agent after Dec. 12 or available (undoubtedly) for a grade B prospect prior.  At $3M or so, you supposedly save $5M a season (??) off Orlando Hudson.  That's more talent someplace else on your roster.

...........

The decision would stand or fall with some coach being V-E-R-Y confident that KJ could get back to his get-your-pitch-and-hit-it-hard game.  Whether the M's coaches think that, who knows.

The ideal diagnosis would be, KJ (1) opened up his strike zone, swinging at sucker pitches, and THEN (2) cut down his swing in self-defense, following the lousy results.  If so, then simply getting him to cut down the strike zone, could naturally restore his aggressiveness, right?

.........

Me?  I'll believe it when I see it.  If KJ doesn't think he can hit, why should I think so?  That's not a swipe; it's an analysis.  KJ's opinion on his own ability is very relevant.

But the M's brain trust is super-confident about reclamation projects, so, eyes slideways I guess.

Cheers,

Dr D

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moethedogMuch of our OF speculation is dependent on Miller's role in '15 and beyond. It seems the M's think his footwork issues are serious enough to mean he must move off of SS, at least as a primary position. I can live with that as a transition to OF should be of no real challenge to him. So he goes to the OF. In '15 that would likely mean that he's the 4th OF and a BU SS. Lots of starts available as such, especially if he comes out of the OF blocks with some CF skills. If that is the Miller role, then Seth Smith/Rasmus talk is unneeded. But we still need that RH OF bat. Actually I would prefer we get a Smith/Rasmus guy AND Souza, still keeping Miller as an OF. It's Ackley I worry about. But whoever we get needs CF skills. Souza is going to be good. Kivlehan, too. Add miller to that group and you have a nice OF going forward.1 hour 28 min ago
SABR Mattdon't really care about defense as a value floor. If you don't hit, I don't want you.2 hours 2 min ago
okdanIf I remember right, Taro called his shot on Seth Smith several years ago, hoping the M's would target him. Looking at Souza, is he a similar kind of player? Perhaps that type of player template has a higher degree of working out. Certainly Souza's defense provides a nice floor of value in case his bat doesn't play as well.2 hours 48 min ago
TaroMontero's 2011 line in AAA for example was projected for a .261/.312/.435 line by ZIPS. He basically hasn't improved at all since then. Given his career line is .258/.302/.396 thats pretty close regressing for Safeco.9 hours 55 min ago
TaroBasically Montero was all projection, whereas Souza is good NOW with projection beyond that.10 hours 5 min ago
TaroI was huge on Montero's potential, and I was wrong. But to be fair Montero never put up the MLEs that Souza did. Souza projects as a 2-3 WAR player NOW based on what he did in AAA. Montero never did, he was incredible based on age related performance at his level and had massive power upside. But he never performed as well as Souza. His MLEs were in the 0-1 WAR range and he just never got better from there. Souza RIGHT NOW is above-average player. Montero never was.10 hours 7 min ago
moethedogI'm with Matt: Rios and Rasmus would be delightful! I'm with Taro: Souza will indeed be a player. But you could probably get both Rios and Rasmus for what Melky will cost per/year. 2X$8-$10M (with an option year) for Rasmus and something similar for Rios. Or just do Rasmus AND Souza, making all or us happy. You can get Souza fairly easily and sign Rasmus and have money to spend. Souza, btw, plays 1B, too. LoMo will need some breathers.10 hours 35 min ago
SABR MattHow much did you love Jesus Montero before we traded for him?10 hours 48 min ago
TaroJust think Souza is a player. I like his combination of athleticism, swing, and performance.11 hours 9 min ago
SABR MattRomero, Montero, Smoak, Peguero, Balentien, Clement...so...so many more. So many you won't possibly remember them all. And all but a scant tiny fraction of them have panned out. And that is not unique to the Mariners. There is a massive zero gravity moon step difference between an awesome AAA hitter and a proven major leaguer. All players have risks...but some are less risky than others. And for the record, Cruz's home run power transcends Safeco rather easily...and his hitter's park in Baltimore...has a mediocre at best HR factor to left. So...yeah...not worried about Cruz.11 hours 52 min ago
SABR MattTaro...love your insights and all...but how many guys have we promoted in the last 12 years who had great minor league numbers?11 hours 55 min ago
TaroEvery player you roster has some risk involved, included proven MLBers. Cruz will be a RH backspin 35 year old slugger with a career sub .330 OBP in hitters parks, and we've signed him for 4 years. I'd be more nervous about him than Souza in 2015, and especially beyond that. Souza has the performance in the high minors combined with insane athleticism. I think hes underrated due to being a football convert and a late bloomer.12 hours 5 min ago
SABR Mattyou don't take that sort of risk when this is the best chance you have of winning the WS. Souza can be a fourth outfielder option...not a starter.12 hours 28 min ago
GLSSouza is a risk, but a pretty good one.12 hours 30 min ago
SABR MattSouza is not reliable. That's not sufficient to this moment.12 hours 45 min ago
TaroI'm thinking Melky would want 'at least' 4 years gauranteed if hes looking for 5. If Ms stay hard at 3 they won't land him, vesting option for 4th or not. Just give him 5 with a lower AAV. 5/$55 or something in that range. Or deal for Souza (my favorite option).13 hours 16 min ago
SABR MattRasmus and Rios would be a fine platoon with CF helper potential and would be cheaper than Cabrera. I like Cabrera better even with more money involved, but Rios/Rasmus would also be fine with me.13 hours 23 min ago
Gordon GrossRios and Rasmus would be... extensive. By himself I'm not huge on Rios. A Rios/Rasmus platoon would be damaging. Playing with brass knuckles. I hope the Ms take the velvet gloves fully off this offseason. Zduriencik has waited half a decade to wade into the fight with fists flying - let's make it worth the wait. I'm fine with making Beane cry into his collapsing-budget cup o' coffee.13 hours 26 min ago
SABR MattRasmus. If you get Rios and Rasmus, the outfield aligns OK14 hours 3 min ago
moethedogThe Rios card might not bluff the Melky team guys: In '12 Rios was a heck of a player. In '11 he was a dud. In '13 and '14 he was basically a split heavy .280-.320-.420 guy with a pretty scraggly glove. There doesn't seem to be much Rios market out there right now, which might be a neat quality. You could probably get him for 2 years and not break the bank. Over the last two years Viciedo has hit RHP at a .738 and .689 clip. Rios has hit at .714 and .646 rate. Just saying. But he does continue to beat lefties up, so as a 4th OF-paired with Ackley, as Matt suggests, Rios would be great. He's been at .889 and .898 vL the last two years. That's rip-roaring. But it means that you need a RF who can play CF, as Rios no longer does.15 hours 43 sec ago